February 19, 2021
Stanford twins deserve all the Hull-abaloo
But which Hull twin — Lacie or Lexie — comes out on top?
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When current Stanford guard Lacie Hull was ten years old, her least favorite thing about being a twin was getting mistaken for her sister. “I get called Lexie a lot,” the fourth-grader told her local newspaper, The Splash.
Now 21, both Hull sisters have, shall we say, a more strategic view of the situation. “It happened countless times on fouls [in high school],” Lacie told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve gotten Lexie’s foul call or she’s gotten mine. In some case [sic], it definitely worked out for the better, if she had four fouls and I accidentally got it.”
The Hulls haven’t needed an extra foul much this season, as both are averaging under two fouls per game and playing important roles for the No. 6 Cardinal. Lexie is a starter and Stanford’s third-leading scorer, averaging 11.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 25.9 minutes per game. Lacie comes off the bench to average 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 17.3 minutes per game.
The Hulls grew up in Spokane, Washington, in a family with athletic genes and multiple sets of twins. Their father Jason was a Division III All-American in basketball at Whitworth University, and their grandfather John also played collegiately at Western Washington University. Jason, his twin brother Chad, his older brother Mark, and John all played for Central Valley High School, where Lacie and Lexie would go on to star.
Lacie and Lexie enjoyed sports besides basketball, including playing on a soccer team called the Five Pink Butterflies in kindergarten and waterskiing on Lake Coeur d’Alene. But their talent on the hardwood was immediately apparent.
“I knew about them when they were fourth-graders,” Central Valley coach Freddie Rehkow told The Seattle Times in 2018. “… The hardest part was waiting that long for them to get to high school.”
In Rehkow’s mind, what separated them from other kids was their drive to improve. “You could just tell they were going to be gym rats,” he told The News Tribune. “You could tell that they love the game. When you see kids at that age with that fire … they were going to have a chance to be really, really good.”
Much of that improvement came in the backyard, where Jason would coach them or the twins would play one-on-one. “Sometimes it gets over competitive,” 10-year-old Lexie said of their one-on-one games. “But it’s good because we’re at the same level when we practice and it makes us better.” The twins played so often that, after the family moved in seventh grade, their former neighbors stopped them in the grocery store to ask why they no longer heard basketballs bouncing late at night.
Jason coached the twins’ AAU team, the Lady Cubs, from third to eighth grade. Lacie was the team’s point guard, while Lexie enjoyed the physicality of playing in the post. Even though Lacie grew slightly taller—Stanford lists Lacie at 6’1 and Lexie at 6’—the twins continued to form that inside-outside tandem all through high school. Lexie was Central Valley’s leading scorer as a senior and averaged 20.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. As The Seattle Times put it, Lacie “handled everything else,” averaging 4.7 assists and 3.4 steals per game while also contributing 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds.
As a high school junior in 2017, Lexie credited hard work and twin chemistry for her and Lacie’s success. “We pride our game a lot on how hard we work, and even if we’re having an off day we give our best effort. I think that’s the thing that makes us stand out,” she told Cardinal Sports Report. In an interview with ESPN, she added, “We definitely feed off of each other’s energy. If one’s down, we know how to get each other back up.”
That energy, effort, and talent powered Central Valley to a 100-6 record, including a 52-game winning streak, during the Hulls’ four seasons. Five of the six losses came during their freshman year, and the sixth—a game in which Lacie fouled out—was so devastating that Lacie wrote about it in her application to Stanford.
Central Valley was especially hard to beat because of its defense, which The News Tribune described as “[an] in-your-face press and suffocating half-court defense.” During the Hulls’ senior year in 2018, the team won its seven postseason games by an average of nearly 40 points and held their quarterfinal opponent scoreless for the entire second half.
Lacie and Lexie spearheaded that defense, the antithesis of the star player who only wants to score. “Those girls are incredible,” an opposing coach said during their senior year. “…Defensively they’re money.”
Because of the Hulls’ willingness to play both ends of the court and their coachability, their AAU coach in high school, Ron Adams, said that Lexie was the best player he had ever coached—better than current WNBA player Briann January and former Tennessee standout Angie Bjorkland. And Lacie “is right there with her,” he added. “… I’ve never seen them take a play off in all the years I’ve coached them.”
The twins always wanted to play together in college, and they had Stanford at the top of their list from a young age, often attending Stanford games at nearby Gonzaga and watching others on television. “Stanford was a dream school, but not something that we really thought could happen,” Lexie said in 2018.
The twins were recruited heavily by Gonzaga and Washington, among other schools, but once Stanford expressed interest, it was a done deal. Even Lily, their dog, immediately knew Stanford was the right choice, crawling all over head coach Tara VanDerveer during the Stanford staff’s home visit. (Luckily, VanDerveer is also a dog lover, but Lexie called the incident “so embarrassing.”)
Being Stanford student-athletes, the Hulls not only stand out on the court, but are also ahead of the curve in preparing for life after basketball. Both are driven academically and excel at math, with Lacie majoring in product design engineering and Lexie majoring in management science and engineering. By the end of her freshman year, Lacie had even figured out how to get both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years.
The twins were similarly driven and confident from the very beginning of their college basketball careers. “We love to play basketball, and that’s what we were going to do here,” Lexie said at the end of her freshman year. “Not to be scared or intimidated by such a prestigious program, just to come in and work hard and not think too much. … Just going in and playing.”
Now juniors, the Hulls are flourishing by doing “whatever the team needs,” as Lacie put it. She started over half of the Cardinal’s games last season but has come off the bench in all but one game this year. She and Lexie, who has started every game she has played in over the past two seasons, have both seen their minutes and points per game decrease slightly this season, but their defensive ratings are the best of their careers.
Beyond adjusting to a reduced role, the Hulls also had to learn how to play with only one twin on the court, which was rare in high school but common at Stanford. According to CBB Analytics, over 60% of each twin’s minutes during their freshman season came without the other on the court, even though Lacie averaged 25 minutes per game and Lexie averaged 20. They played together more often as sophomores, but this season, Lexie is playing 64% of her minutes solo and Lacie is playing 48%.
“We had to start to become more of our own players and distinguish ourselves without each other, which was hard, but it’s an adjustment that we both made,” Lexie said recently. Their hope is that that growth helps them lead Stanford to a national championship—and then catch the eye of WNBA scouts.
It remains to be seen whether they can stick together at the next level or have to play for different teams, but in this series, I specialize in pitting siblings against each other. The twins are identical, but their stats are not, so the natural question is: who comes out on top?
Lacie has been remarkably durable for the Cardinal, playing in 88 out of 90 possible games and starting just over half of them. She has averaged less than five points per game in her career, but that is more of a reflection of her role in the deep and balanced Cardinal offense than her talent. Since arriving at Stanford, she has used less than 12% of the team’s offensive possessions while she is on the court, which has ranked among the bottom 10% of players nationally every season. Her offensive role is mainly 3-point shooting, as over half of her career shot attempts have come from long range, and distributing, to the tune of 1.7 assists per game.
Despite taking relatively few shots, Lacie’s career high in points is 19, which she set in November 2019 against Northern Colorado. She has also averaged 1.03 points per scoring attempt in her career, which is more efficient than about two-thirds of Division I players this season, according to Her Hoop Stats. If she carves out a bigger role as a senior, she could be a prime breakout candidate.
Lexie has missed a few more games than Lacie due to injury, but when she is on the court, she uses a lot more possessions than Lacie. The twins are equally efficient scorers, but Lexie does it at a higher volume, averaging just over 10 points per game in her career. In January 2020, she scored a career-high 29 points against Pac-12 rival Colorado, and she has recorded four double-doubles of points and rebounds in her career.
The twins have also burnished their reputation as staunch defenders coming out of high school, earning three Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honors between them in the last two seasons. Even as freshmen, VanDerveer lauded the twins’ defense, composure, and fearlessness on the court, and Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier complimented their basketball IQ and ability to get steals and deflections.
This season, the twins have been even better defensively. Lexie is allowing 77.5 points per 100 possessions, which ranks in the 96th percentile nationally, and Lacie’s mark of 80.5 points per 100 possessions ranks in the 93rd percentile. They have also combined for over 2.5 steals per game over their careers, using their length, effort, and intelligence to make everything difficult for opponents.
Lacie has the edge in more defensive categories in this comparison, while Lexie leads the way on offense. Together, their contributions have added up to 22.1 win shares over their career, or about 7.4 wins per season.
However, this basketball season has not gone according to plan for most teams, and especially for Stanford, which was forced to live on the road for nine weeks because of local COVID-19 restrictions. For the Hulls, having family on that road trip made all the difference.
“I think this college experience and especially this COVID college experience has been 10 times easier because we’ve been together,” Lexie said last month. “I mean, I know that a lot of our teammates are struggling because they don’t have family with them for the past few months, but we do, and so I feel very lucky.”
VanDerveer, too, feels lucky to have such talented players and well-rounded people on her team—so much so that she occasionally laments that there are only two Hulls.
“I tell their mom I’m mad at her because she only had twins instead of triplets,” VanDerveer said last year.
Families previously featured in this series include the VanDerveers, the Cavinders, Stephanie Mavunga and Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, the McGees, the twins in the West Coast Conference, the Vanderquigs, Erica McCall and DeWanna Bonner, Chennedy Carter and Jia Perkins, the Joneses, the Samuelsons, the Ogwumikes (Part 1 and Part 2), and the Mabreys.
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. (She also writes the "Family Rivalries" series for The Next.) Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats and FanSided.